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Known for its national parks, majestic mountains, and stunning greenery, picturesque Washington is also a well-established tech hotspot. The Seattle area hosts the headquarters of multiple technology companies, including Amazon and Microsoft.
Technology is among the top economic sectors in Washington. According to the state's commerce department, Washington is among the top states for exporting technology services: 57% of its service exports relate directly to the tech industry.
Washington has a strong profile as a cybersecurity destination. This guide explores leading career paths and programs in cybersecurity at Washington universities.
Washington at a Glance
- Average Wage for Computer and Mathematical Occupations: $124,000
- Percentage of Workers in Tech: 9.4%
- Economic Impact of Tech Industry: $128 billion
- Number of Higher Learning Institutions: 72
Why Study Cybersecurity at a Washington University?
Washington state is home to 72 degree-granting postsecondary institutions. Degree-seekers at these schools can enroll in an array of cybersecurity programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. These include campus-based, fully online, and hybrid programs.
One major benefit of pursuing cybersecurity at a Washington university is networking. Many programs offer practical training experiences, including internships and work-study opportunities. These are typically performed in partnership with local employers.
Given the strength of Washington's technology industry, taking part in practical training opportunities through your studies can deliver important benefits. For example, students often source job leads through connections they make during field learning experiences.
Higher education cost trends in Washington can be advantageous: According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average in-state tuition at four-year public institutions in Washington was 20.2% less in 2020-21 than the national average.
Education Statistics for Washington
Washington has a highly educated population. According to U.S. census data, the percentage of residents over age 25 with a college degree exceeds national averages at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. This reflects the advanced, diverse, and technologically oriented nature of the state's economy and workforce.
|Higher Education Statistics||Washington Data||National Data|
|Students Enrolled in Distance Education, 2020-21||56.4%||72.8%|
Accreditation for Washington Schools
Accredited schools meet rigorous academic standards that third-party observers determine. Degree-seekers should only consider accredited cybersecurity universities in Washington. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) is the institutional accrediting authority for Washington state.
In addition to institutional accreditation, some departments may receive programmatic or specialized accreditation. These endorsements identify programs and institutions with curricula that prepare students for jobs in relevant fields. Two examples of technology-oriented accreditors that endorse cybersecurity programs include:
You can research schools' accreditation status by visiting the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's website.
Considerations for a Cybersecurity Degree in Washington State
Many factors can impact a student's decision about which Washington cybersecurity university to attend. For instance, the availability of flexible distance learning options may be important to a learner looking to balance school with other commitments. The level at which you plan to study can also narrow your available options — not all schools offer cybersecurity programs at every level.
In addition to considering program delivery formats and availability, you may also consider:
- Tuition costs and the availability of financial aid
- The school's culture, reputation, and diversity profile
- Graduation rates and post-graduation placement rates in jobs or advanced degree programs
The table below depicts enrollment in distance education courses. Because this NCES data is from 2020 and reflects trends related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the information may not represent typical enrollment trends.
Explore rankings for top cybersecurity programs around the country:
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Cybersecurity Concentrations and Similar Degrees
Some cybersecurity students specialize their learning. A highly targeted skill set may narrow your list of employment options, but can give you a competitive advantage when applying for positions in specific subfields.
To this end, consider the following cybersecurity specializations:
- Digital Forensics: Technology forensics specialists have advanced skills in areas like data retrieval, data preservation, and evidence documentation. They typically assist law enforcement officials conducting cybercrime investigations.
- Cloud Security: Businesses and organizations have become increasingly dependent on cloud computing. This concentration prepares learners for careers in cloud cybersecurity.
- Information Systems Security: Computerized information systems use both hardware and software to categorize and protect important data. This specialization focuses on securing those systems to prevent both internal and external unauthorized access.
Paying for Your Cybersecurity Degree
Paying for a cybersecurity degree in Washington state can be challenging despite the availability of affordable education options. Students in need of financial aid should begin by researching sources of aid that do not require repayment, such as grants, fellowships, and scholarships.
The Washington College Grant offers funding opportunities to students from low- and middle-income families. Eligible applicants are guaranteed some kind of funding assistance.
If you still need financial help after exhausting these options, consider federal and private loans, which require repayment with interest.
The following table provides a general breakdown of how higher education costs in Washington compare to national averages:
In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition
Most public institutions offer lower tuition rates to in-state students and assign higher rates to out-of-state learners. However, Washington participates in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). WICHE members include 15 states and five Pacific Ocean nations and territories.
Students from WICHE member states can qualify for discounted tuition at Washington public institutions. Undergraduates qualify through the Western Undergraduate Exchange, while graduate students are eligible through the Western Regional Graduate Program.
Washington's Cost of Living
Washington-based students should also factor the local cost of living into their budgets. Washington state is a relatively expensive place to live, as indicated by its elevated cost of living index score. This index, which World Population Review maintains, compares local living costs to overall trends across the United States, using 100 as a baseline for the national average.
As of October 2022, Washington has an overall cost of living index score of 111.6. This means that on the whole, the state has living costs 11.6% higher than the national average.
Careers for Cybersecurity Graduates in Washington
The 2022 edition of CompTIA's annual Cyberstates report presents Washington as one of the top technology career destinations in the United States. Washington ranked first for the percentage of its workforce in tech (9.4%), fifth in net tech jobs added, and sixth in net tech employment.
Software-related positions comprised the majority of Washington-based tech jobs, but cybersecurity was the second-largest employing subfield in 2022, hosting more than 23,000 positions. CompTIA also tracked more than 113,000 tech job postings in Washington during the course of the year, including about 45,500 in emerging specializations.
Within Washington, the Seattle area is a hub for technology. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for information security analysts — a broad career category that includes many cybersecurity professions — Seattle ranks in the top 10 metro areas nationally for both employment levels and average wages.
The following sections profile some popular Washington state cybersecurity careers:
Select Cybersecurity Careers in Washington
These senior IT security specialists oversee and manage their employers' cybersecurity and network security measures. They work to prevent cyberattacks and data breaches and lead responses to security incidents.
- 2021 Average Salary for Security Administrators in Washington: $178,130
- Job Outlook in Washington (2020-30): Projections Central includes security administrators within its computer and information systems manager category. It projects 31.4% growth in computer and information systems manager jobs in Washington from 2020 to 2030.
Security analysts assess cyberthreats and their employers' ability to resist them. They fill supporting roles in cybersecurity teams, so recent graduates can qualify for these positions.
- October 2022 Average Salary for Security Analysts: $70,520
- Job Outlook in Washington (2018-28): Projections Central includes security analysts in its information security analyst category. It projects 48.3% growth in information security analyst jobs in Washington from 2018 to 2028.
Penetration testers use ethical hacking skills to test their employers' cybersecurity and network defenses. They identify weaknesses and propose solutions to address them.
- October 2022 Average Salary for Penetration Testers: $88,550
- Job Outlook in Washington (2018-28): Projections Central includes penetration testers in its information security analyst category. It projects 48.3% growth in information security analyst jobs in Washington from 2018 to 2028.
Discover more Washington cybersecurity and tech careers by exploring the tables below:
Washington Employment Trends
|Computer Hardware Engineers|
|2030 Projected Employment||2,570||67,300|
|Projected Job Growth, 2020-2030||+35.3%||+1.7%|
|Computer Network Architects|
|2028 Projected Employment||4,810||174,200|
|Projected Job Growth, 2018-28||+14.8%||+5.4%|
|Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers|
|2030 Projected Employment||146,420||2,257,400|
|Projected Job Growth, 2020-2030||+36.7%||+22.2%|
Source: Projections Central
|Career||Washington Employment||Washington Average Annual Wage||National Average Annual Wage|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||13,720||$178,130||$162,930|
|Computer Hardware Engineers||1,830||$166,980||$136,230|
|Computer Network Architects||3,450||$129,320||$120,650|
|Computer Network Support Specialists||3,270||$89,090||$71,350|
|Computer Systems Analysts||14,320||$112,050||$102,210|
|Information Security Analysts||4,000||$123,550||$113,270|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrators||7,900||$96,490||$91,250|
Source: BLS OEWS
The statistics above speak to the relative strength of Washington's technology industry for professionals in Washington, regardless of which computer science subject they pursue. For every career profiled, tech professionals earn average salaries that exceed national averages. For instance, Washington computer programmers earn an average salary almost 90% higher than the national average.
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Cybersecurity Employers in Washington
Thousands of Washington employers employ cybersecurity experts. The following snapshot profiles three regional employers of tech professionals with cybersecurity backgrounds:
Microsoft: This Redmond, Washington-based technology giant employs more than 220,000 people worldwide. A strong industry leader, Microsoft has ongoing needs for qualified cybersecurity specialists.
Amazon: As a titan of global e-commerce, Amazon relies on cybersecurity professionals to protect the sensitive data it generates. According to a June 2022 article from The Seattle Times, approximately 65,000 people are employed at the company's Seattle and Bellevue campuses.
ExtraHop: This Seattle-based IT agency provides cybersecurity solutions to businesses that use cloud-based computing resources.
Professional Cybersecurity Organizations in Washington
Professional organizations, conferences, and resources can help cybersecurity workers learn about ongoing trends in the field and network with employers. The following list explores Washington-specific cybersecurity opportunities:
Schools With Cybersecurity Degrees in Washington State
Central Washington University City University of Seattle Columbia Basin College Edmonds Community College Green River Community College Highline Community College Lake Washington Institute of Technology University of Washington-Bothell Campus University of Washington-Seattle Campus University of Washington-Tacoma Campus Western Washington University Whatcom Community College
Questions About Cybersecurity in Washington
Can I get a degree in cybersecurity in Seattle?
Are the top cybersecurity universities in Washington expensive?
What cybersecurity jobs in the state of Washington can I get?
Washington has one of the largest, most dynamic tech industries of any U.S. state. Cybersecurity specialists at all stages of their career can connect with a host of well-paid employment opportunities.
Is cybersecurity a good career in Washington?
Washington state's tech professions have strong growth projections and pay higher-than-average wages. Salaries for most career fields exceed national averages.
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